STOCKTON, Calif. --- UC Irvine nearly erased a seven-run deficit but fell 14-13 Saturday to the Tigers at Klein Family Field.
The Anteater offense carried the team with Taylor Sparks batting a career-high 5 for 5 at the plate while driving in three. Dominique Taylor drove in four runs, one shy of his career-high on three hits and scored four times. Connor Spencer and Ronnie Shaeffer each had three hits as UCI posted a season-best 22 hits in the loss.
Chris Rabago jumped on the first pitch of the game from Tiger starter Kyle Crawford and tripled to right before plating UCI's first run on a sacrifice fly from Taylor. Shaeffer followed with a double to right and would come around to score on a single up the middle by Sparks.
The Tigers scored single runs in the first and second to tie the game at 2-2 against starter Matt Whitehouse but the Anteaters took the lead again in the third. Taylor reached second on a dropped pop-up by Erik Lockwood and Shaeffer punched a hit to left to score Taylor. Jerry McClanahan also delivered a two-out RBI hit to give UCI a 4-2 advantage.
Whitehouse pitched a perfect third but then loaded the bases with one out in the fourth. Whitehouse, who would eventually fall to 3-4, handed the ball to Mitch Merten. The Tigers met Merten with a two-run single that was followed by a three-run home run from Tyler Sullivan. Lockwood doubled in a run and the barrage continued as Jason Taasaas hit a three-run home run off Jimmy Litchfield to cap the nine-run inning as Pacific built an 11-4 lead.
Phillip Ferragamo entered in the fifth for UCI and restored order with two shutout innings and the offense took over for the Anteaters. UCI tacked on a single run in the fifth and began to mount a come-back in the seventh. Spencer led off the frame with a hit and scored on Shaeffer's double down the left-field line. Sparks followed with a single and McClanahan came up clutch again to drive in Shaeffer to close the gap to 11-7.
However, the Tigers answered back, scoring three runs against Ferragamo in the bottom half of the inning. Pacific put runners on first and third with two-outs and Tyler Sullivan doubled in two runs. Brett Sullivan followed with a run-scoring single to widen the lead to seven runs for the second time in the game.
The Anteaters would not go away. Justin Castro and Rabago led off the eighth with singles up the middle and Taylor blasted a three-run home run over the left-field wall to trim the margin to 14-10 against reliever Bryce Lombardi. Spencer and Sparks sandwiched an out with a pair of hits and both would score on Grant Palmer's two-out single past the diving second baseman, Louis Mejia as the lead was cut to two (14-12).
In the UCI ninth, Taylor and Spencer slapped one-out singles to put runners on first and third. Shaeffer and Sparks were both hit by the pitch, forcing in Taylor from third. Taasaas, who had entered in relief in the eighth, handed the ball to Patrick Weigel, who induced a game-ending double-play grounder to short for his first save.
Whitehouse recorded his shortest start of the year, lasting 3.1 innings and giving up five runs on four hits. Merten allowed four runs on three hits while Litchfield gave up two on two hits in 2/3 innings Ferragamo pitched three innings, surrendering three runs on three hits and Kyle Hooper pitched a shutout eighth.
Mike Hager got the win for Pacific, pitching three innings and giving up three runs on seven hits. Lombardi and Taasaas allowed a combined six earned runs in 2.1 innings of work. Tyler Sullivan led the offense with five RBI on three hits while Taasaas drove in three runs on one hit.